When it comes to turtles many island cultures have them as a common symbol. Their hard shell, and ability to live both on land and in the water makes them quite symbolic. The first turtle tattoos came from Pacific island nations who revered these animals or who encountered them frequently in their daily life.
Turtles aren’t just cute and cuddly, they often live very long lives and have beautiful markings. Because they live so long they also have an association with immortality so a turtle tattoo could just be a hope for getting old, or if it’s a family of turtles hope that the family lives forever.
A turtle lays hundreds of eggs at a time which means it’s also a fertility symbol. Many traditional turtle tattoos use it to signify this both on men and women.
Traditional turtle tattoos come in the tribal of Pacific countries. This could be Maori, Polynesian, Samoan, or even some of the Western American Pacific styles. These are black, black and grey, or black with a single color depending on the region. The lines and shapes are simple and one dimensional.
These are still the most common choice and usually have intricate patterns across the hell or surrounding the turtle to fill in the area. Some are paired with bright colorful flowers or waves to add more depth and interest but this isn’t traditional as such.
Most turtle shells are made up of several geometric shapes (usually hexagons) which fit together like a puzzle. Breaking this down into a minimalist tattoo is pretty easy and it pairs well with watercolor designs if you want a splash of color in it. Geometric turtles are less common but they’re very modern. Watercolor versions may not strictly follow the geometric lines but they have the same simplicity.
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Many popular cartoons have turtles in them (think Finding Nemo), and while this could be a nod to loving the movie it’s also a more fun way to have a turtle tattoo. Many characters have a personality people can empathize or associate themselves to which makes them an ideal cute choice. You’ll often see cartoon turtles paired with flowers, bubbles and waves.
The shape of a turtle means that its shell is an ideal “space” to fit a design or pattern into. Since this could be absolutely anything it’s easy to make a turtle tattoo personal with this one. Ideas include autism puzzle pieces, dreamcatcher designs, flowers, sunset scenes, and even Mandala designs. Some designs replace the shell altogether for something that is a similar shape like a flower.
Underwater sleeve scenes are very popular. Because turtles have such lovely markings showing them in their own authentic state is a great addition to any scene. There are so many pictures of turtles from below and above they can fit in almost anywhere. Some of the most popular types of turtle to get tattooed are the Sea Turtle and Snapping Turtle. You might even get a portrait of a pet turtle that you had too!
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